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We just finishing up filming our web series, In Transit, and I thought I'd share a bit on how it went...
We filmed 8 episodes (about 5-10mins each) over the course of a month for about 10k (AUD). I and my co-writer were Actors in the show, so we decided to be Executive Producers also and find two Producers and a Director - this gave us the space and time to focus properly on our own roles. There are some people who are great at performing a whole bunch of roles, but I think most people should 1) ensure they don't take too much on and 2) properly define each person's role so no one steps on others' shoes.
We shot on a Canon 5D and our Producers were marvellous at talking down two equipment hire companies so we got great discounts on all the equipment.
Two of our main actors got chickenpox and one minor actor got shingles - of all things! At what we now call 'post-last minute' we had to reschedule shoot days and even re-cast the minor actor, after having already shot one scene with her (so we had to reschedule that as well). To get around the tricky issue of our scabbed-up actor (the poor thing), we donned him in hats for a lot of scenes. This actually turned out really well - it suited his character and we ended up changing what was meant to be a normal house party into a costume party and the footage looks brilliant!
We had Heads of Departments meetings about once a week starting a few weeks before shooting and continuing throughout - that really helped to make sure everyone was on the same page as there were times when communication was lacking (emails people!!). We're going to have a debrief session soon to see what went well and what we can improve for season 2.
We started a Facebook page when filming started and so far (just over a month) we have 147 fans. We posted on set photos and blog pieces from our website but have not pushed it out too much yet as we want to do that just before we start posting episodes, which will be in October. We've set ourselves three months to do the editing - we do a Director's Cut, then Executive Producers' Cut, then sound edit, then colour grade.
I also want to mention the level of commitment and dedication we had from our cast and crew. They all wanted experience and they liked the script so they gave 100% for $0 pay. Most people didn't know each other before filming but by the end we had our own little family - everyone got along really, really well and are now working on other projects together. We did print tshirts for everyone (also a marketing tactic) which people were thrilled to have, as they felt more a part of the project and appreciated.
And that was a really important thing - although everyone knew that we (myself and the co-writer) were the Creators and Exec Producers, we made sure that everyone felt like the project was their own and that they took on ownership. We relinquished control at times to allow this and in the end everyone felt more passionately about the project and took more care to ensure they produced the best product, because it was their product.
I'm sure I could rattle on endlessly about other things but I'll leave it here. I had a brilliant time and I really encourage everyone to get out there and do it! Even on a shoestring budget it can be possible, it's just about finding the right, dedicated people and having the drive.
Congrats on completing the project, Maddy. Is 8 episodes the final for the first season? Also, how did you disburse the 10 grand? Does it include marketing and advertising? Always interested in learning how indie creators use their budget. Thanks.
Thanks Rich. Yep, it's 8 episodes for the whole first season. Not entirely sure how we spent the 10k, but I know at least a quarter was on catering, $1000 to locations, $1000 to art department, then about $3500 to equipment (camera and sound departments) and a few hundred to post.Then the rest was contingency money, all of which we had to use as we had to reshoot some things, to hire a van and catering and equipment went a bit over budget at times.
As for advertising and marketing, we don't really have much of a budget. I'm trying to squeeze out as much as I can from the person who's financially backing the project but we're not going to have much. I've been working on a marketing strategy for a while and I have some helpers - we're working on social media, Facebook campaigns (I'd love to do paid advertising too, but we'll see...) and we're developing a list of publications (Australian local, national, online and international online) to send press releases to. Some other local web series have been getting good press in Oz, so hopefully we can do the same :)
Congrats and Thanks so much Maddy for sharing. It's really helpful to hear how (exactly) people get their projects done, from start to finish. Question: how did you find someone to "financially back" your project? How did you approach them and gain their interest? Thanks.
Good question Christian! I'm following!
Basically the co-creator is the "financial backer". We've had a lot of interest from friends who'd like to donate money and we originally planned to have a fundraising website for the first season but, when we reflected on it, we thought it would be more beneficial to make a first season, like a pilot season essentially, to show people what we want to make and that we can achieve it - and with this we will set up a fundraising website for Season 2. Our plan is to also have a fundraising party where we invite influential people (people we know who are interested in supprting us and/or the arts and it will be worth inviting people in the community who are known for supporting creatives) with whom we discuss the possibility of funding a new season and the co-creator will also draw up official letters to send to our contacts who might be interested in giving donations.
Once we have Season 1 online that will also give us something to show production companies when seeking funding. At this stage of course it's all in the making so I'll report back later this year with how we've gone about with fundraising :)
Maddy, congrats on getting this far. I can only reinforce what you already know and others will comment to, but find as much as possible for marketing. As the web gest bigger with more and more video it will become harder and harder to be seen. Free marketing (social networking, press releases, etc.) only goes so far and usually falls short of what one will expect. Paid - targeted advertising is what will lead to the biggest return.
I was expecting this! I've read through most of the discussions on WSN regarding marketing and have seen that most people believe strongly in paid advertising and marketing :)
I do agree, but at the same time, we had to put the majority of the $ we had to the production itself so that we could ensure we made a quality product. At the moment I'm focusing my energy on the free marketing we can do (although of course it's not free in terms of the time we invest!) and once the episodes go online I will definitely see if we can find ways for paid advertising.
The two methods I was keen on were Facebook ads and Google Ads or YouTube ads (one or the other). Are they the approaches most web series creators and marketers take?
Ah, that's a great idea. I've already started making a list of blogs and sites that share our audience, as I was thinking of submitting 'guest posts' and/or getting involved in their communities. I read one of Bernie Su's (Compulsions web series) articles that said that he had built a large fanbase before releasing their episodes and they achieved some of this by approaching fans of similar shows and - very transparently - telling them about Compulsions. Not sure how we'd go about that ourselves though, so some advertising on such sites would be good.
Perhaps we could look into doing some sort of cross promotion with some websites. Although, or course, they'd prefer that if we had a big fanbase, and to get a big fanbase we need to advertise on their sites... :)
It helps to have value on your show that you can leverage when seeking creative collaborations. You always have to think what's in it for the other person. It's easier to build an audience when you've identified who you're making your series for.
I've been following your posts and responses and think you're on the right track. Run a tight ship, keep your eye on the ball and you'll be fine.
That's good to hear and will do. Thanks Rich!